The Heat Is Online

Fairbanks Sees Coldest November Day in History

Fairbanks cold records continue to fall; air quality alert issued

Fairbanks Newsminer, Nov. 18, 2011

 FAIRBANKS—Cold temperature records are falling like dominoes as a result of an early season cold snap that has a mid-winter feel.

A record low temperature of 36 degrees below zero was recorded at Fairbanks International Airport at 2:53 a.m. That broke the old record of 33 below in 1969.

Air quality deteriorated into the “unhealthy” category for all individuals and fell into violation of federal standards for fine particulate pollution, known as PM 2.5, according to a notice issued this morning by the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

“People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid prolonged exertion; everyone else should limit prolonged exertion,” the borough’s notice says. 

Friday marked the second day in a row and third time in four days that a new record was set. It was also the fourth consecutive day when the low temperature in Fairbanks was 35 below or colder at the airport.

Temperatures at higher elevations, however, were considerably warmer as a result of light winds that brushed over hillsides overnight but that never reached the valley floor.

At Birch Hill Recreation Area on the east side of town, it got up to 8 below just before 5 a.m. The coldest it got at Fort Knox gold mine in the hills north of town was 16 below. In Two Rivers, about 20 miles east of Fairbanks, it was 15 below. The low temperature at UAF West Ridge, which is about 500 feet higher than the airport, was 23 below.

“It had to be windy in those places or they had to have some clouds,” technician Pepper Weimer at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said. “It just all depended on where you were and if there was the slightest bit of wind.”

The temperature at the airport was still a chilly 29 below at 11 a.m. Friday, while it was only 10 below across town at Birch Hill.

Temperatures will continue to be warmer at higher elevations than low-lying areas, Weimer said.

“We’re expecting 15 mph winds from the east on the hills and light winds in the valley,” she said. “It will be coldest where there’s no wind.”

The high temperature at the airport on Thursday was 30 below, which smashed the previous record low high temperature for Nov. 17 of 19 below set in 1904. It was the second-earliest occurrence on record of a 30 below high at the airport so early in the season, according to meteorologist Cory Bogel at the weather service.

The record low high temperature for today is 19 below, which could also be in jeopardy.

More records could fall this weekend, too. The forecast is calling for highs of 10 to 25 below on Saturday and lows of 20 to 35 below. The record low is 33 below.

On Sunday, highs of 15 to 20 below are expected with lows around 35 below. The record low is 36 below.